Pope Francis' Message for World Food Day

«the waste of food is but one of the fruits of the ‘throw away culture’ which often leads to sacrificing men and women to the idols of profit and consumption»

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On the occasion of the World Food Day, which this year has as theme: “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition,” the Holy Father Francis sent to the Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a Message the text of which was read by the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to FAO, Archbishop Luigi Travaglino, in the course of the solemn ceremony held this morning at the Organization’s headquarters in Rome.

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To Mr. Jose Graziano da Silva

Director General of FAO

The World Food Day places us before one of the most serious challenges for humanity: that of the tragic condition in which millions of hungry and malnourished people still live, among them many children. This acquires even greater gravity at a time like ours, characterized by unprecedented progress in many fields of science and ever greater possibilities of communication.

It is a scandal that there is still hunger and malnutrition in the world. It is not just a question of responding to immediate emergencies, but of addressing together, in all areas, a problem that challenges our personal and social conscience, to achieve a just and lasting solution. No one should be obliged to abandon his country and his own cultural environment because of the lack of essential means of subsistence. Paradoxically, at a time in which globalization enables us to know the situations of need in the world and to multiply exchanges and human relations, the tendency seems to be growing to individualism and to shutting ourselves in on ourselves, which leads to a certain attitude of indifference – at the personal, institutional and State level – vis-a-vis those who are dying of hunger or suffer malnutrition, almost as if it were an unavoidable fact. However, hunger and malnutrition can never be considered a normal event to which one must become accustomed, as if it were part of the system. Something has to change in ourselves, in our mentality, in our societies. What can we do? I think that an important step is to bring down, with determination, the barriers of individualism, of being shut-in on ourselves, of the slavery of profit at all cost; and this, not only in the dynamic of human relations, but also in the global economic and financial dynamic. I think it is necessary, today more than ever, to educate ourselves in solidarity, to rediscover the value and meaning of this very uncomfortable word, often left to one side, and to make it become a background attitude in decisions on the political, economic and financial plane, in relations between persons, overcoming egoistic and partisan visions, in the end, we will also be able to achieve the objective of eliminating forms of indigence determined by the lack of food. A solidarity that is not reduced to different forms of welfare, but which makes an effort to ensure that an ever greater number of persons are economically independent. Many steps have been taken in different countries, but we are still far from a world where all can live with dignity.

The topic chosen by FAO for this year’s celebration speaks of “sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition.” I think I read in it an invitation to rethink and renew our food systems from a perspective of solidarity, overcoming the logic of unbridled exploitation of creation and orienting better our commitment to cultivate and look after the environment and its resources, to guarantee food security and progress towards sufficient and healthy food for all. This implies a serious question on the need to really change our lifestyle, including that of food, which in so many areas of the planet is marked by consumerism, the waste and squandering of food. The data furnished, in this connection, by FAO indicates that approximately one third of the global production of food is not available because of ever greater losses and wastefulness. It would be enough to eliminate them to reduce drastically the number of hungry people. Our parents educated us in appreciating what we receive and have, considered as a precious gift of God.

However, the waste of food is but one of the fruits of the “throw away culture” which often leads to sacrificing men and women to the idols of profit and consumption; a sad sign of the “globalization of indifference,” which makes us “accustomed” slowly to the suffering of others, as if it were something normal. The challenge of hunger and malnutrition does not just have an economic or scientific dimension, which refers to the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the food chain, but also and above all and ethical and anthropological dimension. To educate in solidarity means , therefore, to educate ourselves in humanity: to build a society that is truly human means to always put the person and his/her dignity at the center, and never sell him/her off cheaply to the logic of profit. The human being and his/her dignity are “pillars on which to build shared rules and structures that, overcoming pragmatism or the mere technical data are capable of eliminating divisions and of more than satisfying the existing differences” (cf. Address to the Participants in the 38th Session of FAO, June 20, 2013).

We are already at the doors of the International Year that, by FAO’s initiative, will be dedicated to the rural family. This offers me the opportunity to propose a third element for reflection: education in solidarity and in a way of life that overcomes the “throw away culture” and really puts every person and his/her dignity at the center, as is characteristic of the family. From it, which is the first educational community, we learn to take care of the other, the good of the other, to love the harmony of sustainable creation. To support and protect the family so that it educates to solidarity and to respect, is a decisive step in moving towards a more equitable and human society.

The Catholic Church follows this path with you, aware that charity, love , is the soul of her mission. May today’s celebration not be a simple annual event but a real opportunity to urge us and institutions to act according to a culture of encounter and solidarity, to give adequate answers to the problem of hunger and malnutrition, as well as to other problems that affect the dignity of every human  being.

In formulating cordially my best wishes, Mr. Director General, that FAO’s work is ever more effective, I invoke upon you, and upon all those who collaborate in this fundamental mission, the Blessing of Almighty God.

Vatican, October 16, 2013


[Original text: Spanish] [Translation by ZENIT]
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